Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Book of Summer-James F. David

The Book of Summer
James F. David
Tor, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765351470

God spoke to the Christians and gave his Chosen one a vision of a new world along with the science and technology to make it happen. He delivered on his promises and the Fellowship landed on America, which was not the world God granted them. Among the passengers are blacks who want to have a better lifestyle. They remained on planet America; when soldiers from earth arrived to eradicate them, the settlers defeated them. The blacks are the masters while the whites are the slaves.

Summer is a slave who is owned by Master Rice; though she abhors him she believes he will make her his concubine like he did with her mother. When Rice kills the man she loves, Summer runs off to a hiding place.. There she meets Rey Mann, who has traveled the world after twenty years of being alone on the other side. He hoped the Fellowship would return him from exile, but is unaware they are gone. He has encountered severe loneliness and endured horrific hardship until he meets Summer; he delivers her baby. When Summer is captured and taken to town for punishment, Rey goes to rescue her unintentionally starting a freedom revolt.

The sequel to JUDGMENT DAY is a fascinating racial bending reversal of the Antebellum South. Summer craves freedom and is willing to die to achieve it. Master Rice is a fully developed villain who is a product of his society as he nor his peers see his actions as evil; instead Summer is property to abuse and discard on a whim; his rage drives him over the edge as he wants the power his mother-in-law possesses. This is superb thriller filled with redemption and faith as some believe God has abandoned his children, but others strongly disagree.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Keeper of Dreams-Orson Scott Card

Keeper of Dreams
Orson Scott Card
Tor, Apr 2008, $27.95
ISBN: 9780765304971

The collection is broken into categories with six Science Fiction entries; eight Fantasies; two Literary; two Hatrack River (short novels related to Alvin Maker); and four Morman Stories. Each entry has notes afterward in which Orson Scott Card provides additional information. The compilation showcases the depth of the author as Mr. Card runs the gamut of the sci fi-fantasy continuum. Many have children especially teens and the lead characters are caught up in complex moral scenarios or questions on ethical choices. The “nonreligious” Morman tales are obviously timely and although Mr. Card explains that he targets Mormon readers as a Mormon writer; other fans might think these are “weird”, but many of these others in the audience will still appreciate tales of characters facing personal crisis inside a “ward”. Well written throughout, readers will relish the deep yet wide skills of Mr. Card to coax his audience to think beyond his enjoyable KEEPER OF DREAMS.

Harriet Klausner

Starfish-Peter Watts

Peter Watts
Tor, Apr 20 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780765315960

In the near future, the energy crisis has hit geometric proportions that no one anticipated just a few years earlier. Desperate for new clean sources leads to of geothermal sources deep in the ocean in places like Juan de Fuca Rift off the Canadian Northwest Pacific coast. However, it takes a special type of person to become a maintenance worker at the dangerous underwater power plants; employees must be psychotic to ignore their surface lives and agree to surgical alteration to cope with the ocean’s extreme pressure.

The brave (most surface dwellers insist insane) amphibious workers relish the undersea volcanic environs. However, none under and above realize what else resides in the Rift besides the newcomer rifter human species. There lives ancient bacterium has found a host to take them from the ocean depths to the continents. Soon mankind finds itself in a war of the worlds in which human resistance seems nil.

This reprint of a cautionary late 1990s thriller affirms how accurate Peter Watts predicted the energy crisis, but the crux of the tale is the underwater world from real biology and geography to the typical human disregard to the ecosystem. Though no character truly stands out even the deadly bacterium, the end of the world scenario with its anti heroes makes for compelling reading.

Harriet Klausner

Death’s Head: Maximum Offense-David Gunn

Death’s Head: Maximum Offense
David Gunn
Del Rey, May 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345500014

In the far distant future, humanity has spread across space as over time earth has become part of mankind’s original being mythos. Three rival human groups compete for superiority at a time when Emperor Octo V claims to rule the ten thousand systems yet seeks expansion. His Octavians and the Enlightened users of the Uplift Virus are at war with one another. The third group United Free pretends to seek universal peace while manipulating their two competitors so they run the universe their way.

The United Free assigns Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg and his squad the Aux to find a missing U/F observer sent to planet Hekati, but before landing an explosion on board cripples the vessel; he rescues his squad. However, they soon realize this is not Hekati as the U/F leadership sent them on a beta test before sending them to the right planet where society’s sociopaths and government exiles reside. Danger prevails as Sven courageously leads his unit, but soon he and his team learn the real mission.

DEATH’S HEAD starts off as a dark humorous grim outer space tale, but once on Hekati turns even darker and grimmer without the humor as David Gunn argues that war is not a precision dance to the stars but chaotic hell. Sven is terrific as he is tough and loyal, but also caring as he prefers to avoid unnecessary collateral damage; others couldn’t care less if planets are destroyed to achieve the mission. Readers will appreciate this bleak look at mankind in outer space still fighting one another.

Harriet Klausner

A Fire in the North-David Bilsborough

A Fire in the North
David Bilsborough
Tor, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765318930

In the tunnels under the mountains of Eotunlandt, Nibulus leads the Questor survivors of the battles as they struggle to reach the surface where they expect their enemies the Thieves will attack them en masse. Instead when they finally reach the outside, no one eerily awaits to ambush them.

Bolldhe heads towards the next fight with the resurrected evil lord Drauglir and his horde. He expects the engagement to occur somewhere near Vaagenfjord Maw, but has little hope to win except for the strange sword he now possesses.

Gapp and Methuselech reach Wrythe where the malevolent necromancer Scathur has quietly ruled for centuries while regaining strength lost five hundred years ago on Lyndormyn, Peladanes defeated the evil rawgr Drauglir and his supernatural minions; he quickly knows who Methuselech’s soul is and imprisons both of them, but they escape with his horde in pursuit. Soon everyone heads for Melhus Island and its underworld where the armies of the dead await to add to their ranks.

This is a direct sequel to The Wanderer's Tale that takes time to get started as the various key players and their allies are established for new readers. Once the action accelerates there is no slowing down as this military fantasy goes into hyperspeed with confrontations seemingly everywhere. With all the various armies at war and new leaders and heroes emerging, A FIRE IN THE NORTH still pares down to the destined Wanderer who remains the only one who can save an apathetic prosperous world from the malevolent Drauglir and the wicked necromancer Scathur as The Annals of Lindormyn move forward.

Harriet Klausner

The Mirrored Heavens-David J. Williams

The Mirrored Heavens
David J. Williams
Bantam, Jun 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553385410

In 2105 the Treaty of Zurich is co-signed by the representatives of the leaders of the United States and the Eurasian Coalition. The two contracting powers agree to reduce the tensions of the protracted second cold war with some cooperation although neither side trusts the other as the environment has failed “Quickening” the potential end of the planet.

The prime symbol of their cooperation is the construction of the Phoenix Space Elevator which will near full operations by 2110 in Belem-Macapa to enable humanity to expedite journeys off world. Central Intelligence Command counter cyber terrorism agent Claire Haskell is tracking the elevator networks as regional freedom fighters Jaguar’s Swords have reportedly hacked inside. However, a series of explosions soon rock the elevator and devastates much of the city. The enigmatic Operator sends “mechanic” Jason Marlowe to rescue Claire as he has plans for the pair in a complex counter operation against Autumn Rain who has taken credit for the destruction; while the superpowers blame each other as the cold war turns close to heating up on earth and on the moon. The Operator counts on his subordinate razor Claire and her mechanic Jason remembering fondly their love for one another a decade ago; however, as the pair works together to prevent another Rain tsunami, each wonders if their love is real or an imprint by their razor the Operator.

THE MIRRORED HEAVENS is an exhilarating action-packed futuristic counter intelligence espionage science fiction thriller with Brave New World twists and spins that will have the lead field agents and the audience wonders what revelation is next and just who road kill is. Reality is blurred by constructs to expedite a mechanic’s assignment so Claire and Jason only know that she is his razor and he is her mechanic on the stop the Rain project. Readers will appreciate this fast-paced grim look at earth twenty-second century.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nick of Time-Ted Bell

Nick of Time
Ted Bell
St. Martin’s, May 2008, $17.95
ISBN: 97803123680687

As Europe flares up with the latest continental war this time between the allies and the Fascists, twelve years old Nick McIver and his younger sister Kate live with their father in a lighthouse on Graybeard Island, one of the Channel islands. The Nazi U-boats surround their island while their father tries to get important information to the War Office in London. Meanwhile Nick finds a chest containing an odd plea from a long dead ancestor. Apparently Royal Naval Captain Nicholas McIver is in trouble, but has critical information that Lord Admiral Nelson needs. The message accompanies a handy time machine that enables Nick to go back to 1805 to help his antecedent.

As Nick goes back to the Napoleonic Era, Kate joins Lord Hawke and Commander Hobbes as they try to steal an experimental Nazi submarine. At the same relative time in both eras, pirate Billy Blood uses his portable time machine to abduct the children of wealthy parents from various periods that he takes to his French warship; he demands exorbitant ransom if they want their brats back. In 1805 he is about to kill Nick’s relative; in 1939, he considers kidnapping Nick’s sister.

Ted bell’s fine young adult thriller is an engaging preadolescent time travel fantasy in which readers will root for the McIver pair to be in THE NICK OF TIME to save England at sea TWICE a century and half apart. The sea battles are incredibly descriptive in both periods so much so that the audience can compare the navies. Although the non-stop action twists reasoning in order to keep the escapades going, no one will care as readers will cheer on the fully developed young champions while hissing that diabolically bloody pirate.

Harriet Klausner

Kushiel's Mercy-Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel's Mercy
Jacqueline Carey
Grand Central, Jun 2008, $26.99
ISBN: 9780446500043

Prince Imriel de la Courcel struggles with the deaths of his wife and their unborn son although he loves Princess Sidonie, heir to the Terre D’Ange throne. Still with her help he begins to move on and hopes to marry his beloved soon. However, Sidonie’s mother Queen Ysandre places a stipulation on their marrying; she orders Imriel to bring his evil seditious mother Melisande Shahrizai to justice or he will never obtain permission to marry her daughter.

As the royal prepares for his quest, a spell is cast that convinces everyone in the capital including Imriel that his beloved Sidonie loves the visiting prince of Carthage; she obviously believes it too as she sails to Carthage to wed him. Imriel seems to be the only one to recall that he and Sidonie have been in love, but when no one believes him he realizes great magic is afoot. As he prepares to rescue his beloved, he also struggles to prevent a crippling war from occurring.

The finish to the second trilogy (see KUSHIEL’S SCION and KUSHIEL’S JUSTICE) is a superb entry due to the excellent characterizations even with sexual themes less active than in previous books. Imriel and Sidonie are a wonderful pairing trying to overcome her mom’s opposition and a devious enchantment that challenges the power of love. Fans will appreciate KUSHIEL’S MERCY as Imriel is trapped between his deep loyalty to his people on the brink of a deadly war and his ensorcelled beloved on the brink of a deadly marriage.

Harriet Klausner

The Dark Ferryman-Jenna Rhodes

The Dark Ferryman
Jenna Rhodes
Daw, Jun 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780756405212

The Gods were disgusted at the damage that the Mage Wars did so they took the magic away from them and turned their backs on the people of Kerith. The Vaelinar Elfin like beings of magic were thrown into Kerith and over the centuries this long life spanned species entrenched their way into the infrastructure of this world. Lariel the Warrior Queen rules the land, but she has enemies within and without as civil war seems imminent.

Half-breeds Rivergrace and Sevryn, the Queen’s Hand find love, but Lariel supervises them until she can make sure that the former is not a traitor or a threat to her rule. The powerful Warlord Quendius leads his ruthless army of two deadly races, one of which is the Raymy, a deadly race of sentient reptiles. Lord Diort has his Boelgers, Galdarkin and his Kerran as alliess and they prepare for war against Kerrith. Enemies become allies and friends become seditious foes as the Ways become dangerous with only the DARK FERRYMAN seeming to know the answers, but his cost is exorbitant; just ask Rivergrace and Sevryn.

Jenna Rhodes has written a wonderful epic fantasy in the tradition of Terry Brooks and Kate Elliot. THE DARK FERRYMAN is filled with backstabbing political intrigue and fascinating characters who mostly have personal agendas to gain power. Especially fascinating is a brilliant Machiavellian traitor who makes the Neocons look honest as this genius plays puppeteer operating from the shadows to string those in the inner circle of the queen. There are plenty of surprises and twists starting from the moment the beleaguered Lariel no longer trusts those whom she always thought were loyal and as revelations surface, readers cannot put down this superb tale waiting for the next spin to occur.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bloodheir-Brian Ruckley

Brian Ruckley
Orbit, Jun. 2008, $14.99
ISBN 9780316067706

Orisian has become the Thane of the Lannis Blood at a critical time with his people reeling from recent events (WINTERBIRTH); he is unsure of what to do to turn things around on their frozen land, but thirsts to save his people.

At the same time his friend Haig Prince Aewul leads a tremendous military force, but avarice and the thirst for glory could prove their undoing if not checked by rational thinking.

Their adversary Aeglyss seeks magical revenge on his enemies even as his thirst enables him to rise towards the top of the dangerous Black Road; he plans to bring the fight to Haig and Aewul before dispatching Orison.

The second Godless World epic fantasy is bloody grim as Brian Ruckley continues to vividly paint an extremely dark realm. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non- stop action that traverses much of the Godless World. Yet the key to this excellent fantasy is the cast as the three leaders play a deadly game of chess in which checkmate does not necessarily mean victory or defeat because cunning can change the rules of engagement. Orisian is especially fascinating as he understands war means death, destruction, and chaos with no true victors yet cannot prevent it from coming. Readers who enjoy a powerful enthralling fantasy thriller will appreciate Brian Ruckley's aptly named BLOODHEIR.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Snow Queen-Mercedes Lackey

The Snow Queen
Mercedes Lackey
Luna, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780373802654

As the Snow Queen of the Palace of Ever-Winter, Godmother Aleksia insures magic is handled safely. However the Godmother Elena through their mirror communication system informs her that someone pretending to be the Snow Queen is killing people. Aleksia is angry and disturbed, but plans to put an end to this odious affront.

At the same time that Aleksia learns of the deception, the Snow Queen abducts Veikko. His mother the Wise Woman Annukka and his fiancée Kaari vow to save him from the evil one. When these two courageous women meet Aleksia, neither trusts the other until the trio realizes an adversary to all of them is using powerful magic to cause havoc across the land.

The latest Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms (see THE FAIRY GODMOTHER, ONE GOOD KNIGHT, and FORTUNE’S FOOL) is a wonderful adult fairy tale starring three heroines facing danger with courage, wit, and humor. The story line is action-packed from the moment the mirror hot line activates and never slows down until the “Queens” confront each other. Readers will appreciate the enchanting SNOW QUEEN as Mercedes Lackey casts a reading in one sitting spell on her audience.

Harriet Klausner

Hawkspar-Holly Lisle

Holly Lisle
Tor, Jun 2008, $27.95
ISBN 9780765309945

In Korre, Aaran is an experienced very successful “veteran tracker of slaves”; having attacked slave ships on the seas to free the human cargo. However, his mission this time is personal; he seeks his missing sister, who disappeared without a trace a long time ago. He knows the trail is cold, but feels he must try.

The female slave has achieved the impossible twice; first surviving the abuse of her owner the Osselene Order and second somehow becoming an oracle, Hawkspar the demigoddess. She has learned of a nefarious plot that could eradicate a race and knows how to save the lives of thousands by using her skill to change the flow of Time through the amulet Eyes of War, but at the cost of her life. However this former slave needs to be rescued before she beginsand Aeran hears her magical song.

The second Korre fantasy (see TALYN) is an exciting thriller that feels like Dungeoens and Dragons on the open sea as much of the non-stop action occurs on oceans. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as one adventure follows another. However all the escapades also keep most of the cast from being fully devleoped especially villains. Still this is an engaging entry as HAWKSPAR who has not lived a gentle life finds herself caught in a personal dilemma between being a dead heroine for people who have mistreated her or a live coward.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Legend of the Treasure-J. Michael Squatrito, Jr.

Legend of the Treasure
J. Michael Squatrito, Jr.
iUniverse, 2006, $22.95
ISBN: 0595390080

Over a millennium ago, the Overlords simply vanished. Throughout the lands of Gammoria, Arcadia, and Ontarian Territory as well as disputed area, smaller semi independent states and unclaimed deserted patches, this powerful civilization left behind metal plates allegedly with clues to a hidden bounty that over the centuries has become known more as the legend of the TREASURE OF THE LAND concealed in the Seven Rooms.

In Aegeus, Arcadia off the Serpent Sea, Harrison Cross persuades some of his friends that they can find the mythical treasure and bring it home so their town can prosper. Even as they follow the clues of the plates along the way, the trek proves dangerous as the Scynthian race wants all humans dead so they attack them without mercy. At the same time the ruthless Governor of neighboring Concur Lord Nigel Hammer and his malevolent horde want the treasure for selfish reasons and killing a few rivals is no problem for them.

This engaging quest fantasy reads like a cross between the game Dungeons & Dragons and the cult movie Fillard Millmore. Findings from a dead ancient civilization are marveled over as if they were once magical and still are if you can figure out how to use them; sort of like a caveman seeing electricity. Although the villains are two dimensional either as ruthless and or Lady Macbeth ambitious, readers will fully enjoy traveling with heroic fully developed Harrison and his companions as they face danger every step of the way, but courageously continue on their mission in a land vividly described by J. Michael Squatrito, Jr. so it seems real.

Harriet Klausner

The Twisted Citadel-Sara Douglass

The Twisted Citadel
Sara Douglass
Eos, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780060882150

Escator King Maximilian and his former Queen Ishbel battle their strong feelings for one another. However, both have doubts about reheating their romance as the first time it ended sadly and though they care for one another they both fear it will end badly again.

At the same time the rulers debate the merits of their on and off relationship, Escator’s military chieftain Isaiah and the Icarii enchanter Axis SunSoar plot strategy to fight the powerful evil demonic god Kanubai. Since DarkGlass Mountain has absorbed Kanubai, the demon has become even more dangerous to the country and this malevolence is growing stronger. Both Isaiah and Axis know they must act promptly before it is too late; their fear is that it is already too late.

Although not as strong as the Axis Trilogy or the first DarkGkss Mountauin entry (see THE SERPENT BRIDE), THE TWISTED CITADEL is predominently a middle book quest fantasy. Still bone weary and mentally exhausted Maximilian makes the tale with his tired muses that being a hero and champion is not fun; he just wants to stay home for a change and ignore his responsibilty of battling evil. The cast is solid regardless of species especially the human and Icarii teamup and the story line is fast-paced, but progress in spite of some vividly described encounters is limited as this second act mostly sets up the grand finish.

Harriet Klausner

Mind the Gap-Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

Mind the Gap
Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Bantam, Jun 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553384697

Coming home Jazz felt something was wrong in the house where she lived with her mother. Her parent taught her to be alert and always look over her shoulder to see if anyone was coming after her. Heeding her niggling feelings, she sneaks into her home and sees the Uncles there looking like they were waiting for her to arrive. She enters her mom’s room finding her dead with her neck slashed; her mom’s final words to her written in her blood: Jazz hide forever”.

Fleeing her Uncles, Jazz enters an Underground tunnel beneath London where the homeless, the disenfranchised, and the mentally ill reside. She joins forces with the United Kingdom; consisting of young people led by Harold “Harry” Pilkington Fowler. They take her into their home and she becomes a thief in the world above. The Uncles’ have thugs searching for her and he finds her. He kills one of her new friends and injures Harry. The United Kingdom kills one of them because these amoral hooligans do not care one iota about collateral damage in their quest to capture Jazz. Above ground she meets burglar Terrance, who is similar to Harry. Vowing revenge for her mom and the dead boy, Jazz plans to take the battle to the Uncles.

The London Underground is a city underneath the metropolis that topsiders are unaware exists; it has its rules, cultures and beliefs like any society have. It is also a place where Jazz sees scenes of magic of London in bygone eras. Jazz is the glue that holds the story line together; she is strong and obstinate as she refuses to cower any longer determined to take the fight to her enemy. Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon provide an engaging fast-paced yet eerie teen thriller as the revelations keep on coming but the action never decelerates.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 21, 2008

Daemons Are Forever-Simon R. Green

Daemons Are Forever
Simon R. Green
Roc, Jun 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780451462084

Secret agent Eddie Drood misses his carefree days as he detests being the family patriarch of a bunch of snobbish people who many of them consider him the enemy. Making matters worse for Eddie is the seemingly zillion deals his kin made in WWII with devils to battle the Nazi otherworldy horde. After exposing the scandal, the paranormasl keep coming around to collect their debt; some from him as the default “co-signer” even though at the collection encounter is when he learns he is held responsible for family mmeber IOUs.

Eddie also learns the Hungry Gods have come simply to take over the world. He enlists his girlfriend wood-witch Molly Metcalf, his Cousin Harry’s hellspawn half-brother Roger Morningstar, and the Drood family Armourer known for his gizmos in an effort to save the world from invaders.

DAEMONS ARE FORVER, the second satirical “James Bond” Drood fantasy (see THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TORC) is the usual Simon R. Green’s frantic, fast-paced frolic as Miss Penny Drood insists the hero just save the world with a gizmo or two. Filled with puns normally seen only in a Xanth novel and lampooning what is in and out, fans will appreciate Eddie Drood’s turning 007 into 700.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Don't Hex with Texas-Shanna Swendson

Don't Hex with Texas
Shanna Swendson
Ballantine, Apr 29 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345492937

She left Manhattan and her position at Magic, Spells & Illusion, Inc. because Katie Chandler fell in love with her boss Owen Palmer, who apparently does not reciprocate her regard and besides she fears for his safety due to her hex appeal. She goes home to the family farm in Cobb, Texas where she knows no major magical lines exists and ergo assumes there is a slim to none chance of an enemy arriving.

As she works at the family owned Chandler Agricultural Supply store, Katie finds her hometown boring after living an enchanting life in New York. Everything changes when her mom tells her she witnessed some eerie happenings that no one else apparently noticed. Katie wonders if a rogue mage has come to town but that seems ridiculous as the lack of a power source makes it impossible. Still she informs her other former boss Merlin who sends Sam the gargoyle to investigate. Meanwhile Katie notices a magical advertisement in a local magazine in which Phelan Idris offers an online course to those who can read his ads. Owen comes to Texas to help out, but his arrival only tells Katie she still love him. Her mom realizes he is the one and insists he stay at the farm while Idris assigns his horde of amateur wizards to destroy Owen.

The fourth Chandler-Palmer romantic suspense fantasy (see ENCHANTED, INC, ONCE UPON STILETTOS and DAMSEL UNDER STRESS) is a terrific entry in an entertaining series. The story line is fresh as readers meet the parents while the magical battle takes place in Texas. Still as with the previous three enchantments, it is the odd fascinating relationship between the lead couple that makes this a fine entry as the villains learn what most people in the Lone Star State already know: DON’T HEX WITH TEXAS unless you want a mess of trouble.

Harriet Klausner

The Prefect- Alastair Reynolds

The Prefect
Alastair Reynolds
Ace, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780441015917

Panoply Prefect Tom Dreyfus is a highly regarded law enforcement official whose beat is the Glitter Band habitats that surround Yellowstone planet. His superior Jane Aumonier assigns him to investigate the shocking destruction of Ruskin-Sartorious Bubble habitat that left over nine hundred dead in a mass murder attack. Tom understands the signifcance of the motive is not just to help identify the culprits, but to understand why so as to prevent more assaults on innocent people.

At the same time that Tom begins his inquiries into the horrific case, Deputy Field Prefect Thalia Ng works on programming to prevent fraudulent voting following an incident at the House Perigal in which six died. As Tom works his case and Thalia tests her patch, Jane is removed from duty at a time she is considered critical by field prefects. Tom believes an unknown person or group has put together a clever diabolical plot to take control of the entire Glitter Band.

The latest Revelation Space thriller is an excellent science fiction police procedural as Dreyfus is at his best uncovering a conspiratorial scheme one clue at a time. The story line is fast-paced as the Prefects investigate several goings-on besides the prime mass murder case; interestingly Alastair Reynolds cleverly uses the cases to provide some history and geography enough for newcomers to understand the Glitter Band and for long term fans not to be irritated. Although the conspirators remain for the most part behind the scenes so never flushed out beyond their objective, fans will appreciate this excellent whodunit in Outer Space.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Touch of Twilight-Vicki Petterson

The Touch of Twilight
Vicki Petterson
Avon, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780060898939

Light and Shadow are constantly are war with one another. In Las Vegas, Zodiac Troop 75 keeps the Shadows in check; protecting mortals from adversaries who would harm, kill, or convert them to evil. One of the newest members of the unit is Joanna Archer, who now looks physically like her dead sister Olivia. No longer mortal, she cannot have a relationship with the love of her life Ben, but she refuses to let her evil Shadow counterpart Regan lure him into something malevolent.

A doppelganger is being formed in an alternate reality, but is investigating Joanna before coming to our realm by tearing holes in reality and if not stopped the world will cease to exist. Her father, the evil Tulpa, meets the doppelganger and knows Joanna who is part light and part shadow can stop it. He wants them work together to destroy it. The troop leader wants Joanna to let him change Ben’s memories forgetting Joanna from the time she changed into a superheroine. The moves Joanna makes will determine who rules. She must find the strength to let Ben forget her, but doesn’t know if she can.

Part urban fantasy, part mystery and part pulp add up to a tale that is impossible to down as the audience will want to know how the problems are resolved. Vicki Petterson keeps readers’ attention with several red herrings and unexpected twists. Fans will feel for the heroine who has so much on her plate topped off with what to do with the man she loves.

Harriet Klausner

Tigerheart-Peter David

Peter David
Del Rey, Jun 2008, $22.00
ISBN: 9780345501592

He is a home boy; Paul Dear is. His father tells him stories about magical creatures that his mother does not believe in, but accepts the tales as part of her overall happy life. In his dreams, Paul visits Anywhere located on the third star on the right and straight on to morning. The Boy, who is part of Anywhere, meets with him in Paul’s mirror teaching him things like talking to the animals.

Trouble strikes the Dern household causing the father to leave and the mother to mire in a deep depression. While shopping, Paul finds an interesting curio that turns out to be the Fiddlefix the boy’s pixie. . Brought back to life and Paul as Paul seeks something in Anywhere that will bring his family back together. The Boy abandons Gwenny and two of his Boys to go pirating with the Bully Boys. Everyone learns what caused the Boy to transform from a flitter gibbet to a cowardly pirate; his friends do their best to bring him back to his former frolicsome self. A battle between the Boys and the Pirates is coming with Paul, who wants to go home caught in the middle. Fiddlefix intends to kill her true enemy and Gwenny wants her old friend back.

Peter David pays homage to Barrie’s Peter Pan. The Boy is a Pan type hoping to not grow up and eager to have exciting adventures, but his escapades place him in harm’s way and turn him into a villain. His friends prove their love for him by trying to turn him back. Although part children’s fairy tale and part adult treatise on growing up, TIGERHEART is an engaging fantasy that is a magical retelling of the classic, but never quite settles on a prime audience.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dreamer-Paul Bates

Paul Bates
Five Star, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146428

The government controls everything in the lives of their citizens. They will not allow dissension and harshly eliminate opposition. However, in spite of the government’s seemingly total severe control, a rebellious underground exists whose goal is to throw out the current leadership and replace it with their leaders starting with top gun Carpathia Coyle. This opposition has proven at times as ruthless as the government is.

Walter Vellum is rising rapidly up the ladder of the rebels. At the same time of his meteoric assent, his girlfriend and employee at his bar, Jennie Height is beginning to understand her precognitive skills. Her visions are the only thing that keeps the rebels alive as the government crushes their opponents at every turn.

This is an inetresting comination of science fiction and fantasy in a dystopian society. The story line can become a bit bewildering to follow but for the most part is an intriguing tale of rebellion in which the critical players for each side are clairvoyants. Well written and exciting, readers initially will root for the rebels, but soon realize they offer more of the same ruthless oligopoly control as the government does.
Fans of psychic thrillers in a futuristic dystopian world in which the adversaries are two sides of the same coin will appreciate Paul Bates’ fine thriller DREAMERS.

Harriet Klausner

The Dark Ones-Anthony Izzo

The Dark Ones
Anthony Izzo
Pinnacle, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786018765

An abandoned brewery in Buffalo is planned for demolition, but Charles Pennington goes to extraordinary lenghts to prevent that from happening. Charles is a Guardian battling the forces of darkness with his ability to shine light on those who can only live in the dark. Sixteen years ago Charles defeated Satan’s demon Engle and buried him in the brewery with the Everlight that keeps this evil from rising.

However, the machine operators dig up Engle separating him from the Everlight. Sara, who just learned that her mother Laura Pennington, Charles’ granddaughter, is alive is heading to Buffalo while the father of her heart follows her because he loves her; he fears Engel being on the loose will come after her. She is the most powerful Guardian walking the earth today and knows she is the only one who can stop Engel if she can recover the Everlight. Failure means hell on earth.

Initially no one believes demons exist except for the Guardians, but hideous clues pile up that prove the DARK ONES walk the earth continuing an eternal war as Engel sends his evil horde out to spread death. The story line is creepy yet an excitng horror thriller filled with plenty of gory action scenes that are critical to the characterization of how malevolent the Dark Ones are. Told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, the audience feels for those brave souls risking more than just their lives knowing some will die battling the Dark Ones.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Code Spell-Kelly McCullough

Code Spell
Kelly McCullough
Ace, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780441016037

Magical has gone digital in the twenty-first century with magic performed on the MWeb which uses computers formed by webgoblins. Both forms are sentient and Melchior, Ravirn’s familiar is loved by the man who once owned him then set him free when he realizes he was sentient. After fighting Hades, he was turned into a Chaos entity with his own House of Raven. While in Hades, he rescued Persephone and his girlfriend’s webgoblin Shara. He e-mails her to Raven’s girlfriend Cerice. He did not realize that Persephone created a virus that she placed in Shari.

Now the magic of the mweb is chaotic and working at fifty percent capacity. Cerice leaves Ravirn to repair the supercomputer Necessity and because she belongs to the House of the Fates where order is obsessive and she realizes she cannot cope with the chaos Raven brings. Necessity is a goddess who turned herself into a supercomputer so that magical users can access the multiverse while the Fates are subordinates to the compute. The Fates hope to repair the machine, but under their control. Ravirn is backed by the Furies to fix their mother Necessity so that the Fates will not have control of her. He holds all the powers of the world in his fingertips, which leads to many wanting him dead before he repairs Necessity.

This is a fun to read fantasy filled with irreverent witticisms, plenty of action, and a mind boggling romantic subplot. The protagonist has become a demigod and has a new outlook while juggling romances, avoiding enemies and relatives who in some cases are both, and fixing a sentient computer. Ravirn has a dry wit and a streak of kindness that at times gets him in trouble but endears him to readers as he bumbles and fumbles with a CODE SPELL.

Harriet Klausner

Abhorsen-Garth Nix

Garth Nix
Eos, May 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9780061474330

The Dead Chlorr of the Mask has captured by enchantment Lirael an Abhorsen-in-Waiting, her nephew Prince Sameth, her companion the enigmatic Disreputable Dog and the mysterious white cat Mogget. They need to escape but the spell makes it difficult as their evil host has the support of the powerful malevolent necromancer Hedge.

The quartet escapes anyway and manages to rescue Sameth's friend, Nicholas Sayre, but seemingly too late to prevent him from exhuming the remains of Orannis, the Destroyer. Hedge's plan seems on the verge of fruition, as the hemispheres begin to converge; if they merge, evil will win and all life destroyed. The heroic quartet must first find a way to destroy the Destroyer if Hedge’s Death scheme is to be stopped.

This sequel to SABRIEL and LIRAEL is a terrific young adult fantasy that begins to answer questions from the previous tales such as what is the Disreputable Dog while also providing the audience with a wonderful good vs. bad thriller. The contrast between dismal wretched realm of Death and those necromancers who want to bring it to the moral plane vs. the optimism of the band of champions enhances the tension as the good dudes seem too innocent to hold their own against their malevolent adversaries. It behooves newcomers to read the first two books to see how the opponents got to this point although Garth Nix provides an interwoven backdrop. Fans will appreciate this superb entry as all bets are on Hedge and Destroyer.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 14, 2008

Goddess-Fiona McIntosh

Fiona McIntosh
Eos, Jun 2008, $14.95
ISBN 9780060899073

Religious fanatic Aranfanz holds captive in his desert fortress pregnant Zaradine Ana because he believes Percheron’s leader Zar Boaz is the father of the unborn. Aranfanz plans to use the heir as a pawn.

Ana wonders if her beloved Prince Lucien of Galinsea, known in Percheron as Spur Lazar, is the father. However, her biggest concern is for her child wheile she remains incarcerated by the desert warriors. Meanwhile her spouse Zar and her beloved Luicen obtain the help of shapeshifting demigod Iridor in their quest to find and free Ana at a time when their two nations turn to war and Maliz the demon in human guise as the grand vizier tries to prevent their success.

The final Percheron tale (see ODALISQUE and EMISSARY) is an interesting ending to a strong trilogy though this entry is not quite as engaging as the previous pair is as it takes too long to move into confrontational mode. The key cast remains solid characters as Zar obsesses over Ana to the point that he leaves his country at risk from the sea to mount a desert rescue of her. Although newcomers must read the rpevious books to comprhened what is going on in GODDESS, Fiona McIntosh closes her saga on a fine note.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gone With the Witch-Annette Blair

Gone With the Witch
Annette Blair
Berkley, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425221211

At her sister Harmony’s wedding bridesmaid Storm Cartwright tells best man Aiden McCloud that he must help her find the baby that she hears in her head whenever she is near him. He tells her to leave him alone as he has two weeks off and does not plan to follow the nutty voice. The clairvoyant thinks otherwise as she and her allies plan to have her and him search for who Storm believes is his child. Their attraction only encourages her.

Since he refuses to cooperate, Storm seductively abducts Aiden. Adding insult she uses his RV. As she heeds the crying voice, Aiden reluctantly agrees to follow her lead. He falls in love with his magical companion while she remains in denial though leaving him frightens her. Still there is the crying baby that must be found first as Storm’s psychic skill in finding kids impresses her cynical dragon mate.

The second Cartwright romantic fantasy (see SEX AND THE PSYCHIC WITCH) is a delightful charmer due to the changing relationship between the lead couple. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Storm handcuffs Aiden and never slows down until the climax. Fans will appreciate this lighthearted warm road tale and look forward to the final triplet’s saga NEVER BEEN WITCHED starring Morgan’s Destiny.

Harriet Klausner

Eclipse-Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown, Sep 2007, $19.99
ISBN: 9780316160209

Washington State feels like a place under siege as a rash of strange homicides has frightened everyone. Meanwhile Isabella “Bella” Swan, relatively new to the town of Fork where her father is chief of police has two boys interested in her. She likes both of them, but loves Edward the vampire, who fears his family’s blood lust could harm her; she also has befriended Jake the werewolf whose natural enemy is a vampire. Their love for Bella makes them even more bitter rivals than their species already are. She fears picking one over the other might ignite a local species war.

A previous incident involving Bella has come home to roost leaving her in danger. When Jake and Edward realize the threat, they reluctantly team up as Bella’s safety supersedes their animosity though each wants to be the hero left standing with the woman they love.

Though similar in story line to the first two Bella in peril paranormal thrillers (see NEW MOON and TWILIGHT) the paranormal species seem genuine as the three teens struggle with adult issues that none want to deal with; treat us like adults except hold us accountable like a child. Stephenie Meyers continues to pay homage to the energy and vigor of first love as ECLIPSE is a strong young adult romantic suspense fantasy, but the triangle only glacially moves closer to resolution. Still fans will appreciate this fun and entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Foundling-D.M. Cornish

D.M. Cornish
Speak, Sep 2007, $8.99
ISBN: 9780142409138

In spite of his first name, Rossamund Bookchild is a young male orphan living at Madam Opera's Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls. Rossamund, like all the children at this orphanage, is being trained to serve either in the Boschenberg Navy or some other government agency.

A stranger with strange eyes hires Rossamund as a "lamplighter" for the Emperor watching out for rogue men and monsters (see the 102 page Explicarium glossary for more details involving the role of a lamplighter). However, Rossamund fails to reach his destination when he is tricked into boarding the wrong vessel. This ship of doom leaves the lad in a strange realm where blood feuding is the norm as monsters and human are in constant mortal combat. Rossamund soon learns that when a human kills a monster, a "monster-blood tattoo" is made from the deceased’s blood and placed on the victor (see Explicarium for more details). However, the lost lamplighter knows survival on this strange Half Continent is all that matters until he can find passage back to his assignment; that is if he still hasq the job.

The young adult story line is excellent enhanced by wonderful drawings, but it is the appendices with the incredible glossary, the maps and the detailed pictures that make this opening fantasy thriller unique and extraordinary. Rossamund is a wonderful lead protagonist who the audience will admire as he struggles to survive the Half-Continent. Much of his escapades enable the reader to meet the locals, which in turn anchors the place. Readers of all ages will appreciate this superb refreshing tale and look forward to Rossamund’s next Monster Blood Tattoo adventure (see LAMPLIGHTER).

Harriet Klausner

Lirael-Garth Nix

Garth Nix
Eos, Apr 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9780061474347

In the Old Kingdom, the daughters of Clayr all have the gift; all except one. Lirael is “Sightless" while all the other women have the “Sight”. Already feeling like an outsider as her mother deserted her years ago, her difference leaves her even lonelier as she believes everyone seems to look down on her since she failed to move on two years ago like they all did.

Now fourteen years old, Lirael releases a Stilken (female human crustacean from a glass- coffin). That kindness leads Lirael to meet her great-great-grandmother, a renowned healer. The elderly woman encourages her descendent to befriend the insolent "Disreputable Dog". She and her disrespectful companion meet tense Prince Sameth, son of Sabriel (title star of the first book; not yet read by me). This trio of alienated outcasts soon uncovers a plot to destroy the Old Kingdom.

This is an intriguing reprint of a young adult quest fantasy that grips readers from the moment Lirael meets her ancestor and never slows down; in fact nothing critical is resolved by the end leaving the audience disappointed yet anxious for ABHORSEN. The lead trio is solid fully developed characters with the two humans having anxiety issues and the dog remaining an unresolved enigma. Newcomers and those who read the first tale will feel spellbound by the Old Kingdom’s magical realm in which the paranormal seems normal.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 11, 2008

Highland Rogue-Tess Mallory

Highland Rogue
Tess Mallory
Berkley, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425220429

In Austin, Texas, Maggie Graham loves everything about historical Scotland; Liam Neeson of Rob Roy fame is her hero. Thus she is euphoric when she receives the letter from Dr. Alexander that she has been accepted to join an archaeological dig near Drymen in the Scottish Highlands.

At the site, Maggie finds a parchment that sends her back in time to 1711 at an importune moment. She drops into the midst of a battle between the forces of Quinn McIntyre and those of the Duke of Montrose. Quinn saves her life taking her to his friend, Ian McGregor for safekeeping. However, when Montrose captures McGregor, Quinn vows to free his friend; Maggie wants to help. Their efforts fail leaving Quinn mortally wounded and McGregor slated for execution. Maggie takes her beloved back to the future where he can get medical treatment that will save his life; she knows they will go back because McGregor still needs rescuing.

This back and forth entertaining time travel romance is a fun tale starring a courageous heroine who has romanticized the Scottish legendary heroes so much so that Quinn wonders if he can measure up to her ideal. Fast-paced fans will enjoy the romance between the modern day starry eyed Texan and her HIGHLAND ROGUE.

Harriet Klausner

Books of the South: Tales of the Black Company-Glen Cook

Books of the South: Tales of the Black Company
Glen Cook
Tor, Jun 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9780765320667

“Shadow Games”. The Black Company took heavy losses at the battle of the Tower of Charm. Croaker leads what is left of his comrades in arms on a quest to find the lost Annals in order to bring it to the free companies’ birth city Khatovar that may not exist outside of ancient history or perhaps mythos. The expedition is dangerous from the natural predators, but they must deal with shadowmaster wizards who believe humans are expendable at a time the squad still hurts.

“Dreams of Steel”. Following another devastating battle at Degajore, Croaker is missing and probably dead. A former brutal wizard-empress, Lady is in charge of those members of the Black Company that escaped the city’s death trap. She struggles to rally her force as they must make a desperate attack on the seemingly invincible shadowmaster wizards.

“The Silver Spike”. As much of the Black Company survivors trek south in search of legendary Khatovar, some depart. Darling rejects Raven, who becomes bitter and an alcoholic until Philodendron Case begins to help him. Darling and Silent return to their underground haven. Others are also in retreat and hiding.

This omnibus contains books 4-6 and is a natural follow-up to the first omnibus reprint (see CHRONICLES OF THE BLACK COMPANY containing the first three tales - The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and The White Rose). The fine military fantasy saga holds up well through books 4 and 5 and the twists appear plausible as Glen Cook provides the full impact of war on people. However, the Omnibus edition enhances flaws as Lady seems to have the same command voice as Croaker that is blatantly obvious when reading Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel and The Silver Spike is a fascinating sidebar tying up some dangling threads, but feels out of place (though it is my personal favorite). Still the Black Company remains strong military fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

New Moon-Stephenie Meyer

New Moon
Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown, Sep 2006, $19.99
ISBN: 9780316160193

In Forks, Washington, after having recovered from a vampire assault (see TWILIGHT), Isabella “Bella” Swan celebrates her eighteenth birthday with her boyfriend and rescuer Edward Cullen and his family of vampires that are “vegans”; never drinking human blood. However when Bella cuts her arm, Edward and his kin struggle to control their desire as the trickling red liquid is like catnip to them. They do not harm her, but he realizes they can never be together and ends their relationship breaking her heart.

Bella is depressed until she meets Ford High School sophomore Jacob, a sophomore from her school who belongs to a motorcycle pack. She begins to come out of her funk though she misses Edward. However, she soon learns what the pack truly is and what Jacob will become; a natural enemy of Edward; not just because they like the same girl.

The second Bella tale is a terrific paranormal young adult thriller as the heroine is sort of like Marshall Teller of Eerie, Indiana landing in one bizarre situation after another. This time the vampires show up towards the end of the tale as Bella learns there is a lot more species under the sun (make that the moon) than humans. Although Jacob behaves towards Bella identically the same as did Edward in TWILIGHT even considering the first person filtering of the heroine in peril, fans will enjoy watching what happens on the NEW MOON on the Olympic Peninsular.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Twilight-Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown, Sep 2006, $10.99
ISBN: 9780316105849

Seventeen year old Isabella Swan leaves her newly married mother in Phoenix to live with her father Charlie, the police chief of Forks, Washington on the Olympic Peninsular; a four hour flight to a place she has never visited, but life starts anew for her. Her first day at Forks High School leaves her nervous as there were three hundred and fifty seven students yesterday who know each other. Today there is one more pupil who nobody knows; Bella knows no one.

On that first day in potential purgatory, Bella meets the enigmatic Edward Cullen. She is very attracted to him, but he acts schizoid towards her. One moment he seems to want her; the next he loathes her. She also acts out of character as she spit out her life to this stranger. However, she begins to unravel the mystery of the teen she desires who at times acts as obsessed with her as she is with him. Although she does not fully believe what she has found out, Bella realizes Edward and his adoptive family are vampires whose sustenance comes from animals. Other vampiric clans are not as regimented as they feel vampire superior should dine on inferior beasts including humans; Bella is fair game.

This is an exciting young adult romantic fantasy starring two teens besotted with one another in a taboo love. The story line is driven by the lead couple as their attraction causes problems for each of them and their families especially when outsiders intervene. Although the climax is rushed and too much of what occurred is passively explained instead of actively happening, readers will enjoy forbidden teen love between a purebred human and a purebred vampire.

Harriet Klausner

Personal Demons-Stacia Kane

Personal Demons
Stacia Kane
Juno, Apr 2008
ISBN: 9780809572557

Dr. Megan Chase hosts the popular radio call in show Personal Demons. She counsels her listeners by pledging to help them to "slay their personal demons". Her loyal followers fully believe in her abilities to do exactly what she says; so do others who are not exactly fans of Dr. Megan.

Megan is a unique human; perhaps the only Homo Sapiens without a demon. That and her growing notoriety make her a threat to the demon-kind and an adversary from her past the Accuser wants her dead. While the demons compete for her allegiance or her death, Megan and her overly protective lover fire demon Greyson Dante become involved in the seemingly inane but potentially dangerous Fearbusters meetings while a reporter trying to make a name digs into Megan’s involvement in a murder fifteen years ago.

This engaging paranormal thriller will have readers believing in psychic powers and personal demons while wondering when we take a shower do we have a peeping demon and would sex mean a ménage a quatre? Readers will enjoy this lighthearted entertaining urban fantasy as Dr. Megan radio counselor finds out the hard way that there are some creatures out there who literally interpret her motto as a direct threat to their well being.

Harriet Klausner

Night Child-Jes Battis

Night Child
Jes Battis
Ace, May 27 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780441016020

She is an Occult Special Investigator for Vancouver Mystical Crime Lab which is part of the Central Occult Regulation Enterprise. They are mages who try to prevent demons from harming humans. Currently the two sides have a working truce that is about to be tested.

In the middle of the night Tess Corday and her partner Derek are called to the crime scene featuring a murdered vampire. The telepath at the crime scene picks up images of the vampire’s last moments filled with fire and a teenage girl. In the vampire’s pocket is a picture of himself and his sire as well as an address. Tess and Derek visit the home of Cassandra and her niece Mia. They are shocked to realize the aunt is a demon and the niece is a mage whose powers remain surprisingly dormant. Mia confides that the vampire was in her guardian’s home. A vampire attacks the two investigators, but they escape unharmed. They get into further trouble when they are warned then ordered by their superiors to stay away from Mia. Tess feels a strong affinity for Mia so she risks her life and her job to keep the focus of seemingly everyone’s interest safe.

NIGHT CHILD will appeal to a wider audience then just the obvious Dresden urban fantasy crowd. The world building is fabulous as the audience will feel like Jes Battis’ humans are caught in the middle of a cold war that could go hot in a nanosecond between mages and demons. Adding to the depth of the characterizations is both sides have good and bad members with their ethics being extremely complex. Fans will appreciate this tour of the Battis universe where the supernatural, the natural, and the hybrid live together in a not so peaceful co-existence.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spectre-Phaedra Weldon

Phaedra Weldon
Ace, Jun 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780441015931

While walking out of her body one day Zoe Martinique clashed with a Sybiont she calls Trench Coat from the Abysmal plane. She changes into a Wraith when something happens to her or her loved ones. When she is OOB and Wraith, Zoe is not human, but Other. Trench Coat took her voice and gave her his mark on her hand. Zoe is able to use her new powers as a Traveler and a Wraith to work as a private investigator.

Since she hasn’t completed her last assignment for Maherba, she is forced to acceptfor him her them or it an assignment at a benefit at the Atlanta’s Westin Plaza; where she is to listen in on a conversation between Congressman March Knowles and Atlanta based businessman Francisco Rodriguez. She hears about two groups, a shipment and something in it that two groups want. She learns these groups somehow linked to three homicides with missing body parts from each victim. Two groups want to catch Zoe in order to control or kill her, but she does her best to elude them while her powers grow. However even she is not strong enough to override the Compulsion of the Command Eidolon that one of her adversarial group’s leaders places on her. She is his to command unless her friends can free her.

The supernatural beings are fascinating characters in SPECTRE whether they are daimon, symbiont, shade or ghost; as each has a distinct personality. Zoe remains ignorant as to the extent of her powers or how much they will expand, but though she is often more Other than human and the Wraith is her dark side, she remains an independent free thinker trying to do what she believes is morally right for humanity. This is a great urban fantasy that will have fans anxiously waiting for the next installment in Zoe’s saga.

Harriet Klausner

Unholy Domain-Dan Ronco

Unholy Domain
Dan Ronco
Kunati, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781601640215

In 2012, the PeaceMaker virus destroyed the Internet; causing pandemic catastrophes as so much of the world was tied to cyber space with millions dead as a consequence. Over the next decade since this debacle destroyed the global economy, the government has banned the development of new technology outside of what the Feds create. The Technos strongly object to the taboo while the Church of Natural Humans want all technology outlawed.

The Domain has developed new illegal technology with the intention of a coup d’etat to take control of the government; the Church wants to expand its hold on the government. These two groups are ready to take their cold war hot. At the same time David Brown, the son of software guru Ray Brown, the person universally blamed for unleashing PeaceMaker, wants to prove his dad is innocent of these charges. He does not care one iota about the power struggle.

The second PeaceMaker tale (see THE PEACEMAKER) is an exciting follow-up warning to the premise that the destruction of the Internet will lead to many direct deaths and a global collapse exponentially worse than that of the Great Depression. The story line is fast-paced, filled with plenty of action as David (apropos first name) is a human sharing space with two five hundred pound battling gorillas. Although the rampart sexism seems unnecessarily comical and ergo out of place UNHOLY DOMAIN is an entertaining futuristic cautionary thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Host-Stephenie Meyer

The Host
Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780316068048

They came from outer space without any fanfare. These parasites inserted themselves inside the human brain taking over the host. Disease and war are long gone, but some no infected humans insist this is not Eden as security for freedom is to high a price; the space “Souls” control the body while the human brain activity ebbs. Seekers search for those still independent to turn them over for conversion by the centipedes from space. No place is safe.

In Chicago, one of these human insurgents twentyish Melanie Stryder wants these “Souls” to leave her alone. When the Seekers capture her, a "Soul" is placed inside her brain. She learns the creature surprisingly has a name, Wanderer. Obstinate Melanie refuses to fade into the background. She as the Host persuades Wanderer to find her brother Jamie and her boyfriend Jared missing in the Arizona desert as long as they find the parasite’s significant other too. When the coupling meets up with her loved ones in a secret rebel hideaway led by her uncle, the purebreds suspect both of them sharing her body, but soon Wanda as they start calling the parasite begins to win over the insurgents just like this Soul did her host.

Although first impressions is THE HOST is a futuristic Invasion of the Body Snatchers; in fact Stephanie Meyer’s tale is a much more complex character driven thriller. Relationships are the key to this superb tale that focuses on Wanda-Melanie and those the Host cherishes like her brother and her boyfriend. Jared’s thoughts bring perspective when he kisses Melanie he wonders if he is kissing her, Wanda, or both; geometrically adding to the complications is Ian. Fans who want invasion action and its consequences need to go elsewhere like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers; but those who appreciate a deep look at a personal level will enjoy this fine thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Escapement-Jay Lake

Jay Lake
Tor, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9680765317094

Paolina Barthes has lived her entire life in Praia Nova on the Wall that separates north and south earth in the Atlantic, but is off of nowhere and inhabited by ship survivors and castaways. She is ecstatic when she has a chance to leave her home and see the world. Her vague goal is to reach England, as she has heard that the country is the most civilized nation in the world.

Paolina is unaware of how powerful a mage she is. She is unaware that some people will use her naivety for avaricious reasons while others see her as a deadly weapon. However, though unsophisticated Paolina is a genius in spite of her home having seven books in all, emotionally strong and will not be anyone’s patsy, but will she recognize in time when she is being taken advantage of.

Returning to his precision world of MAINSPRING, Jay Lake provides another unique entertaining science fiction-fantasy thriller that adds to the mythos of the heavenly clockwork yet it is so different from the first entry. The story line is character driven and not just by the young heroine although she is the prime star. Readers will enjoy following her adventures off the Wall where civilized cynics abound to use or kill the untrained but extremely talented mage.

Harriet Klausner

Into the Storm-Taylor Anderson

Into the Storm
Taylor Anderson
Roc, Jun 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780451462077

At the onset of World War II, the desperate allies put into the navy several warships that have seen their better days. Commander Matthew Reddy leads one of them; a destroyer that he fears will fail. When the enemy engages his vessel, Matthew realizes how helpless they are; he orders his men to steer into the eye of a nasty storm to elude their foes.

However, Matthew fully understands what it means to jump from the frying pan into the fire when the storm abates; he and his crew find themselves in a world where dinosaurs live and humans are non existent. However Matthew learns of two sentient races at war; each side demands he join them as his junk ship is superior by far to what either side possesses.

With a nod to Star Trek and DC comics, INTO THE STORM is an engaging military science fiction parallel earth thriller. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action. On the plausible side is this alternate earth with dinosaurs and sentient races and the crew entering the “portal”; on the doubtful column is the impact of a broken down destroyer on a world war (potential technological leaps in the long run aside). Still fans will appreciate Taylor Anderson’s fine tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 7, 2008

Moon Flowers-James P. Hogan

Moon Flowers
James P. Hogan
Baen, Apr 2008
ISBN: 9781416555346

In the middle of the twenty-first century the mega-conglomerate Interworld Restructuring Corporation controls much of earth and other planets through its questionable ethics enforced by its even less scrupulous military contractor, Milicorp Transnational. The Bill of Rights does not exist as those amendments were protection from government not corporations and was affirmed by Supreme Court judges.

Quantum physicist Marc Shearer has plenty of offers to join the weapons of mass destruction wing of MT, but prefers basic and applied research rather than experimental design so is on the outside not looking in. At the same time Marc studies physical reality, anthropologist Jerri Perlok is whimsically comparing the preening of the affluent elite to that of peacocks in heat.

People are vanishing on the recently found Cyrene while those still in contact seem to not care about anything; if it was just a civilian lost no one would care, but officials of IRC and officers of MT are some of the missing. Hard ass Myles “the Facilitator” Callen leads an expedition from earth to Cyrene to learn the truth. Marc was given no choice but to join the crew as his scientific mentor Dr. Evan Wade vanished while Jerri is also drafted due to her unique social anthropology skills of studying bizarre cultures like the rich and almost-famous.

This is a fascinating encounter between humans and a sentient species that thinks radically different. Whereas mankind is avariciou in its one for one belief that the individual matters regardless; the selfless Cyreneans feel everyone counts as no one is left behind. What makes James P. Hogan’s latest sci fi look at human avarice and the extrapolation of the Bush corpocracy is the reaction of the Cyreneans who understand revering teachers and doctors, but not social flits. This comparison of the two human species make for a strong social anthropological thriller as the greedy invoke the wrath of the God of Economics to save Wall St while the altruistic wonder why waste energy negatively when Main St needs help.

Harriet Klausner

Valor’s Trial-Tanya Huff

Valor’s Trial
Tanya Huff
Daw, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756404796

Humans, di’Taykan, and the Krai were invited into the Confederation by the Elder Races who turned their backs on violence long ago. When the Others went to war against the Confederation, the younger races were sent to fight the enemy. Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr has seen more violence in her years in the Corps than most people combined see in a lifetime. She and her squad are sent to the planet Estee where the Others are gathering for a large battle.

Upon landing on the orb, Torin is sent to the front line to pull back the troops, but an explosion knocks her out. When she awakens she is in an underground tunnel and quickly learns that corrupt “Colonel” Harnett and his goons are running things and the three younger races from different battles and places are too weake to fight him. Torin kills Harnettl and his cohorts; afterward she and some soliers in good shape seek a way out of this buried bunker. However they are stunned when they find Others as prisoners as well. They struggle to find the exit, but when they finally surface on the unstable planet, they have little hope for survival.

There is plenty of action especially battle scenes in this story, but the most interesting twist of VALOR’S TRIAL is survival is the mother of agreements as the Confederacy and the Others ally to live for another fight between them. The different species seem plausible and their wary cease fire to escape the imprisonment seems believable and reasonable. Tanya Huff has written a rousing “Valor” military space opera focusing on strange bedfellows that will appeal to Honor Harrington fans.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Last Wish-Andrzej Sapkowsi

The Last Wish
Andrzej Sapkowsi
Orbit, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0316029181

Geralt de Rivia enters Vizima where after a barroom brawl in which he leaves three dead, he meets the king’s castellan Velerad, whose monarch King Foltest needs his help. Seven years ago, recently crowned as the ruler, Foltest impregnated his sister. She and their opffspring died during childbirth. Now his daughter has awakened as a striga mass killing anyone in her way. Foltest say he will kill Geralt if he harms his daughter, who if she fails to return to her coffin within three rooster crows she will become human. However, if she remains a striga he is to kill her with his silver sword that slays magical beings.

THE LAST WISH is actually a compilation of six “Voice of Reason” short novellas (“The Witcher”, “A Grain of Truth”, “The Lesser Evil”, “A Question of Price”, “The Edge of the World”, and “The Last Wish”) that served as the base to the Witcher video game. The above paragraph is the opening gamut to the adventures of Geralt de Rivia the Witcher with each subsequent tale building from previous escapades. Geralt is consistent throughout as a cold blooded killing sorcerer whose adventures are fun to follow due to his strange code of ethics while hunting monsters many of whom hide as beatific humans afflicting his plane with their evil.

Harriet Klausner

Clockwork Heart-Dru Pagliassotti

Clockwork Heart
Dru Pagliassotti
Juno, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780809572564

The immense powerful city of Ondirium depends on its incredible Great Engine to run everything from the ground lowest caste corridors to the exalted peaks of the elite privileged sectors serving as a precise CLOCKWORK HEART of the metropolis. Taya the metal winged Icarus courier, who due to her position, can journey anywhere in the city from exalted Primus to middle caste Secundus to run down Tertius. One day while soaring across the city she notices a wireferry carriage failing; though she rescues the passengers including exalted Viera and her son Ariq, Taya had never seen machine failure before.

Viera introduces her savior to the highest elite where Taya has never been until now. These wealthy lofty individuals run the city. Taya is especially attracted to Decatur leader Alister Forlore and admires the dedication to the poor of his more forbidding somewhat estranged brother Cristof. However, a terrorist attack precisely engineered by the anti- Great Engine Torn Cards kills Alister and Viera's husband Caster. Taya and Cristof grieve yet feel strongly a need to investigate to learn why Caster and Alister were the targets although officially they are not sanctioned to do so. They will soon find more than they were seeking in the corridors of the city.

With a nod to hi tech (punch cards?) science fiction, the heart of CLOCKWORK HEART is a wonderful amateur sleuth fantasy. The story line is fast-paced especially the investigation while the multitude cast makes the caste system seem real. Fully developed are the heroine, two of her Icarus peers, the dour hero, his late brother, and other exalted; the support cast is solid coming from all over the city. However it is Ondirium that stars as the exalted heart of an enjoyable tale of three “cities”.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Shadow Isle-Katherine Kerr

The Shadow Isle
Katherine Kerr
Daw, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756404765

The island of Haen Marn has been located off the coast of Albe for years. Its inhabitants have been waiting for it to move through the dimensional barrier once again and into the world of Deverry and the Westfolks. This happens as Angmar’s eldest son Enj gives the ruined trumpet to the dragon Rori who gives it to a powerful dweomor user. Valanrdorio appeals to the spirit of the Lady of the North upon Earth to fix it which she does. Enj blows it and the island returns home.

Their world is a different place than the one Argmar left. Her husband Jori is a dragon who secures the inhabitants’ lands to make sure the Horsekin don’t lay seige to the populated towns in their religious zeal to convert everyone to the cult of the goddess Alshandra. Jori isn’t sure he wants to be turned into a human and since the Horsekin plan to invade, the rulers can use an ally like him in his dragon form. People are fleeing their homes because they are not safe from Horsekin raids. The islanders wonder what will become of them in this new world with its war strategies, new alliances and the threat of the Horsekin invading their lands.

The third Silver Wyrm tale has many more subplots than written above as almost every character has something going on, which can overwhelm the reader with switching perspectives. Laz the thief is the most fascinating of the vast cast as he landed on the island to escape punishment for stealing magical gems. He has one chance left to make amends by righting wrongs and eliminating much of the bad karma he caused over several lifetimes. His chance for redemption depends on the choices he makes; readers will wonder which way he goes as Jori and the people of Haen Marn return home in THE SHADOW ISLE. Katherine Kerr has written a great epic fantasy.

Harriet Klausner